Chihuahuan Desert Virtual Fiesta Recap

When the El Paso Zoo reopens be sure to visit the new Chihuahuan Desert Exhibit.

The 16th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Virtual Fiesta on September 19 was a great success. Special thanks to Heather Rivera and Sarah Murphy for all of their efforts in bringing everyone together on short notice and for some very informative programming.

We hope to see you next year when we will host our 17th annual event. Be sure to follow this blog with your email address to stay informed.

All of the YouTube programs will stay linked to this website and hopefully some of the Zoom programs will be added at a later date.

Return the Wolf to Texas by Rick LoBello, Texas Wolf Pack. If you have questions for our speaker you can contact us here.

Brief overview of the water quality in the Rio Grande Basin by Leslie Grijalva, USIBWC. If you have questions for our speaker you can contact us here.

Birding with the El Paso Trans-Pecos Audubon Society by El Paso/ Trans-Pecos Audubon Society. If you have questions for our speaker you can contact us here.

Environmental stewardship and restoration at Rio Bosque by John Sproul, UTEP. If you have questions for our speaker you can contact us here.

Video en español sobre desierto / naturaleza de la Semana de la Conservación Latinaironmental by Maryflor Garcia, Frontera Land Alliance. If you have questions for our speaker you can contact us here.

Restoring Native Agaves of the Chihuahuan Desert for Endangered Pollinating Bats by Dr. Kristen Lear, Endangered Species Interventions Specialist, Bat Conservation International. If you have questions for our speaker you can contact us here.

Virtual Tour of the New Chihuahuan Desert Exhibit at the El Paso Zoo by Sarah Murphy, El Paso Zoo. If you have questions for our speaker you can contact us here.

Wool Spinning Demonstration by LuAnn Kilday, Farm and Ranch Museum. If you have questions for our speaker you can contact us here.

Frontera Land Alliance Video Snapshot – Sotol. by Maryflor Garcia, Frontera Land Alliance. If you have questions for our speaker you can contact us here.

Nature Club needs volunteers


The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Club is a collaborative effort between the Zoo, local parks and the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition. The goal is simple, to help people connect with our desert and to encourage people to get outside and enjoy nature.

Last year we signed up hundreds of members at the Zoo when our team and volunteers invited Zoo guests to join while they played our Conservation Game.

Members can help us make the club both educational and fun by helping with social media posts, writing creative content focused on youth and more. Presently we are looking for adult leaders to help us expand the club and create more interactive educational opportunities. If you would like to help contact us and to set up a meeting to discuss how you can be involved.


El Paso is located within the biggest and most diverse desert in North America, the Chihuahuan Desert. The Chihuahuan Desert covers more than 200,000 square miles and is home to thousands of different species of plants and animals.

The El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens is home to animals and plants from around the world including Africa, Asia and North and South America. The Chihuahuan Desert experience in the North America area of the Zoo highlights the wildlife and plants of the eco-region where the City of El Paso is located.  The exhibit has an arroyo helping people to better understand one of the desert’s important naturally occurring environmental features plus an exciting flash flood.   There is also a new Lobo Vista classroom with viewing windows looking into endangered Mexican wolf and Thick-billed Parrot exhibits where Education Specialists and Zoo Keepers present engaging programs for our guests and school groups. There are also new exhibits for prairie dogs, desert birds, bolson tortoises, jaguars and endangered peninsular pronghorns.  The ranch house exhibit is home to smaller animals of the desert that have moved inside.  Just outside the house we have a new exhibit for coatis, also called coatimundis. Coatis are very rare in the northern Chihuahuan Desert and are the only carnivore in the Western Hemisphere that lives in large family groups.

16th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Virtual Fiesta planned for September 19

Save the date – Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta – September 19, 2020

It’s going to be a very different Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta this year. If you have been following the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition you can already see what we have changed. Originally we were planning a two day event at the Zoo and at Franklin Mountains State Park. This year we are going to host a fiesta, but in an abundance of caution because of the threat of Covid-19 we will have a VIRTUAL FIESTA.

The plan will be to schedule a variety of presentations on Facebook, Zoom and YouTube. These presentations will focus on all kinds of fun and educational topics including wildlife and plants of the Chihuahuan Desert, geology, history and more. We are looking for presenters now and need to finalize the virtual programming schedule by September 1. If you are interested in being a presenter you can contact the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition for more information.

At this time the El Paso Zoo is still closed. Franklin Mountains State Park is open. On September 19 you may visit the park on your own, but there will be no activities at the park like we have had in the past. Park Entrance fees will be in effect. To learn more about the park visit their website.

As we get closer to the day of the event on September 19 follow this blog by entering your email address on the lower right or join our FaceBook Group to keep up with more details on the event and other Chihuahuan Desert news.

Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta Videos

Desert Walk Podcast

Short walk in the desert with Rick LoBello in the Westside Community Park, El Paso, Texas. If you want to keep up with all of our news including news about the 15th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Virtual Fiesta please follow this blog with your email address.
Eagle’s claw cactus
Creosote bush
Texas earless lizard

Snakes awake

The Western coachwhip is one of the few diurnal snakes in our area, most snakes are nocturnal and rarely seen.

By Rick LoBello

It’s almost Memorial Day, it’s getting hotter and many snakes are starting are coming out of their underground burrows where they have been brumating (hibernating) during the cooler winter months. Snakes are cold blooded animals and can not tolerate extreme cold or heat. As they begin to wake up they are hungry and seeking warm air. They really can’t function when its cold and if they get caught out in cold weather they can die.

People in our city sometimes will find a snake in their yard or when hiking, but overall if you stay on hiking trails you could hike all your life and never see one. The main reason why snakes are rarely seen is because most are nocturnal. Some snakes at this time of year will warm up out in the sun for part of the day making them vulnerable to predators like hawks. Its at this time that you might get lucky and see one. 

While most snakes are nocturnal there are some that are largely diurnal because of their interest in catching lizards and other animals active during the day. They include gopher snakes (bullsnakes) and coachwhips. Like any snake rattlesnakes can come out during the day, but your chances of running into one are very slim. Don’t be overly concerned by signs in parks warning you to watch out for snakes. Yes there is a possibility that you might have an encounter with one, especially if you are walking around at night during the summer when most snakes are active.

If you are worried about seeing a snake or getting bit by one, the best way to avoid encountering a snake is by staying on trails and avoiding dense vegetation or putting your hands or feet in places where you can’t see what may be hiding. If you should see a snake, especially a rattlesnake, don’t disturb it any way. Snakes will defend themselves and can bite. 

Snakes are beneficial to humans in many ways including how they eat rats and mice that may come around the home, the same rodents who have ticks bearing lyme disease.

Did you know that biologists have identified 32 species of snakes in El Paso-Juarez Border Region? UTEP posted a checklist on their website in 2000 which is very helpful when trying to identify any reptile or amphibian you might find in your backyard or out on a trail in our area.


Family Colubridae: Common Harmless Snakes
Arizona elegans–Glossy Snake
Diadophis punctatus–Ringneck Snake
Elaphe guttata–Corn Snake
Elaphe subocularis–Trans-Pecos Rat Snake
Gyalopion canum–Chihuahuan Hook-nosed Snake
Heterodon nasicus–Western Hognose Snake
Hypsiglena torquata–Night Snake
Lampropeltis alterna–Gray-banded Kingsnake
Lampropeltis getulus–Common Kingsnake
Lampropeltis triangulum–Milk Snake
Masticophis flagellum–Coachwhip
Masticophis taeniatus–Striped Whipsnake
Pituophis melanoleucus–Gopher Snake
Rhinocheilus lecontei–Long-nosed Snake
Salvadora deserticola–Big Bend Patch-nosed Snake
Salvadora grahamiae–Graham Patch-nosed Snake
Sonora semiannulata–Ground Snake
Tantilla hobartsmithi–Southwestern Black-headed Snake
Tantilla nigriceps–Plains Black-headed Snake
Thamnophis cyrtopsis–Black-necked Garter Snake
Thamnophis marcianus–Checkered Garter Snake
Thamnophis sirtalis–Common Garter Snake
Trimorphodon biscutatus–Lyre Snake

Family Leptotyphlopidae: Blind Snakes
Leptotyphlops dulcis–Texas Blind Snake
Leptotyphlops humilis–Western Blind Snake

Family Viperidae: Vipers
Crotalus atrox–Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Crotalus lepidus--Rock Rattlesnake
Crotalus molossus–Black-tailed Rattlesnake
Crotalus scutulatus–Mohave Rattlesnake
Crotalus viridis–Prairie Rattlesnake
Sistrurus catenatus–Massasauga


Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles
of the El Paso-Juarez Border Region, 2000
Carl S. Lieb, R. G. Webb, and J. D. Johnson
Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum,
University of Texas at El Paso

2020 Fiesta will be a two day event at the park and the El Paso Zoo

Artist Andy Dufford stands next to a wolf sculpture he created along the entrance way to the El Paso Zoo’s new Chihuahuan Desert exhibit.  The sculpture is made from three blocks of Colorado sandstone each weighing about 8,000 lbs. The blocks were carved individually then stacked for final shaping.  

Save the date – Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta – September 19-20, 2020

The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition and Franklin Mountains State Park are happy to announce that this year’s Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta will be a two-day event with day one at the El Paso Zoo and day two at Franklin Mountains State Park – Tom Mays Unit.  Late in 2019 the Zoo opened a $16m Chihuahuan Desert exhibit that has completely transformed the northern end of the Americas section.  The all-new area serves as home to animals from one of North America’s largest deserts, and includes Mexican wolves, mountain lions, jaguars, prairie dogs, pronghorns, coati, thick-billed parrots, burrowing and screech owl, bolson tortoises, coach whip snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, and black widow spiders.

Day one of the annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta will introduce fiesta goers to El Paso’s big backyard and help people connect to the beautiful desert and invite them to explore the trails at Franklin Mountains State Park. On day two, visit the new Franklin Mountains State Park Visitor Center and meet park staff and local naturalists, they will lead a series of guided hikes for people of all ages.

Follow this blog by entering your email address on the lower right or join our FaceBook Group to keep up with more details on the event and other Chihuahuan Desert news.

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Looking east towards the Franklin Mountains along an arroyo in Tom Mays Park, March 4, 2020.  by Rick LoBello

Stay connected with CDEC


Greetings Chihuahuan Desert Coalition friends,

Thanks for your continued interest in CDEC and for staying connected with us.   Please note that we are no longer maintaining a general email list.  The best way to keep up with our organization is by using the follow link at the bottom of your screen and entering your email address.  You can also join our facebook group at

If you have not looked over our top priorities below please contact us to let us know how you would like to be involved.   We are a volunteer organization.  We need help with social media, blogging, fund raising and someone with the passion to help educate youth to coordinate our Nature Club.

Our big three goals are: (1) Education and Outreach, (2) Volunteerism, and (3) the Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta.    To help us accomplish these goals the following individuals have agreed to help.

Education and Outreach – Collaborating with the Parks Department Trailblazers program with coordination by Joe McKnight.  Developing a schedule of Zoo Adventure Chihuahuan Desert workshops at the El Paso Zoo with coordination by Sarah Murphy

Volunteerism – Encouraging people to become volunteers at the Chihuahuan Desert exhibit at the El Paso Zoo and at local parks and protected areas with coordination by Rick LoBello

Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta – Increasing the conservation education impact of the annual event with coordination by Rick LoBello

Celebration – Making sure we focus on celebrating everything about the Chihuahuan Desert to help more people value this important landscape and eco-region with coordination by Diane Perez